Madonna had a lot to say about Pepsi’s decision to re-release her once-controversial commercial more than 34 years after it was yanked from the airwaves.
A 52-second, edited version of the 1989 ad ran during Tuesday’s MTV Video Music Awards as part of Pepsi’s star-studded 125th anniversary campaign. In it, Madonna joins a troupe of dancers on a city street and in a ’50s-style diner as her then-new single “Like a Prayer” is played.
“Go ahead,” she teases viewers. “Make a wish.”
By 2023 standards, the commercial is incredibly tame. Still, those familiar with the backlash it once ignited were surprised to see it resurface ― including the Queen of Pop herself, who offered a cheeky reaction on social media Wednesday.
Watch Madonna’s 1989 Pepsi commercial below.
“34 years ago I made a commercial with Pepsi to celebrate the release of my song Like a Prayer,” she wrote on Instagram. “The commercial was immediately canceled when I refused to change any scenes in the video where I was kissing a black saint or burning crosses. So began my illustrious career as an artist refusing to compromise my artistic integrity.”
After thanking Pepsi for “finally realizing the genius of our collaboration,” Madonna ended her note with a James Baldwin quote: “Artists are here to disturb the peace.”
Of course, the pop diva didn’t stop there, and later shared a photo of herself sipping from a can of Coca-Cola ― Pepsi’s biggest rival ― to her Instagram story with the caption: “Also good!”
The original commercial was part of a $5 million sponsorship deal that Pepsi had signed with Madonna ahead of the March 1989 release of her “Like a Prayer” album.
When the soda giant agreed to the deal, however, they hadn’t seen the music video for “Like a Prayer.” Groundbreaking for its time, the video shows Madonna witnessing a Black man getting convicted for an assault he didn’t commit. Her character takes refuge inside a church, where she kisses a Black saint who resembles the wrongfully arrested man before experiencing stigmata and dancing in a field of burning crosses.
Watch the “Like a Prayer” video below.
The “Like a Prayer” video was condemned by a number of Christian groups, including the Vatican, shortly after its MTV premiere. Though Pepsi’s commercial didn’t feature any of the video’s religious imagery, the company responded to the uproar by terminating its deal with Madonna and scrapping her ad after airing it just twice.
True to form, Madonna had the last laugh. Not only did she keep the $5 million from the campaign, but “Like a Prayer” became a global smash and remains one of her most beloved songs to this day.